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September 23, 2021 1:07 pm

US House Approves $1 Billion Standalone Bill to Replenish Israel’s Iron Dome by Wide Margin

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Streaks of light are seen from Ashkelon as Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 15, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $1 billion bill to replenish Israel’s defensive shield against rocket attacks on Thursday, also known as the Iron Dome missile system.

The measure — which passed by a final tally of 420 to 9, with two members voting present — will now move to consideration in the Senate. The House voted on the standalone legislation after funding for the Iron Dome was removed from a broader spending bill.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett thanked House members who backed the bill for their “commitment to Israel’s security,” while Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said the result “reaffirms the special relations between our two countries, rooted in shared values and strategic interests.”

“Upon my urging, House leadership has committed to bringing a standalone bill to the floor to replenish the Iron Dome missile defense system,” said Congresswoman Kathy Manning (D-NC) ahead of the debate on the House floor. “We will pass this bill with the support of the majority of my colleagues and reiterate our ironclad support for our ally, Israel.”

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“The Iron Dome is a critically important defense system used by Israel, one of our closest allies, to save civilian lives from terrorist attacks,” Manning added. “Earlier this year, Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets at Israel and Iron Dome intercepted 90% of them, saving Israeli and Palestinian lives. Following those attacks, funding is required to replenish Iron Dome to ensure that the defense system is prepared to intercept future rocket attacks.”

The nine votes against the bill were Republican Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (MI), André Carson (IN), Ilhan Omar (MN), Cori Bush (MO), Marie Newman (IL), Ayanna Pressley (MA), Chuy Garcia (IL), and Raúl Grijalva (AZ).

Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) and Hank Johnson (GA) voted present.

Earlier Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz spoke with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and thanked him for continued US support in equipping Israel with the means necessary to defend itself.

The $1 billion in funding is meant to replace missile interceptors used during the May hostilities between Israel and the Hamas terror group. The supplemental bill was introduced on Wednesday by House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT).

“Replenishing interceptors used to protect Israel from attacks is our legal and moral responsibility,” DeLauro said. “While this funding would ordinarily be included in a year-end spending package, we are advancing this legislation now to demonstrate Congress’ bipartisan commitment to Israel’s security as part of a Middle East with lasting peace.”

Jewish and pro-Israel groups had urged Congress to pass the standalone bill.

“We expect the vote to undoubtedly be a bipartisan supermajority of approval on the House floor today. In funding Iron Dome, Congress will be affirming to the terrorists of Hamas and Hezbollah that America continues to stand by Israel’s right to defend herself,” said William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

In a sign of support, majority leader of the US House of Representatives Steny Hoyer called Foreign Minister Lapid this week to reiterate the commitment of the White House to ensure Israel receives the aid.

“We will act to ensure Israel has the ability to defend itself, and I expect strong, bipartisan support for this effort,” Hoyer said.

Lapid said that the conversation revealed that “this was a technical postponement resulting from the debate in Congress over the ceiling of the US budget deficit.”

Hoyer also confirmed support by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who pledged that the aid budget for the Iron Dome will be transferred soon, according to Lapid.

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) said: “I will make sure that Iron Dome is funded this year. Israel has a new government with the broadest imaginable governing coalition, including Arab parties. Israelis and Palestinians are talking to each other again. The Abraham Accords are changing the dynamic of the entire region. All progress starts with and depends on security. And security relies on Iron Dome funding.”

Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib — who is among the group of progressive Israel critics that succeeding in stripping the Iron Dome funding from the broader spending package — voted against Thursday’s measure, saying ahead of the debate, “We must stop enabling Israel’s human rights abuses and apartheid government.”

Editor’s note: this story has been updated

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